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Neil Liversidge: Why are there so few female advisers?

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The RDR has smashed the banks as a force in advice so far as the vast middle ground of consumers is concerned. Many highly qualified and experienced bank advisers have been displaced, including many female advisers.

The banks had deep pockets when it came to training and after a few stiff fines they even developed a rigorous compliance mentality, which was impressed deeply on their advisers.

I have worked with many women in this profession over the years. Proportionately, they have been under-represented in the more senior positions but from what I’ve seen, they have always punched well above their weight intellectually. In my DBS days I was the investment bod in DBS’s research and technical support department, but the top spots on pensions, protection and tax and trusts were all held by women, all of whom were better at passing exams than I shall ever be.

It is dangerous to generalise but in my experience women in this profession are also on the whole more ethical in the treatment of clients than many of their male counterparts. They also tend to be more loyal and conscientious where their employers are concerned.

All this at a time when the potential customer base consists of a higher proportion of well-educated, professional and higher-earning women than at any time in history.

So why are women so under-represented in our profession, forming only 17 per cent of advisers, according to one estimate?

More than anything else, I believe it is a simple lack of vision. Despite all the equality legislation of the past 40 years, most business owners are men. They view as a nuisance, at best, the prospect that they might have to modify their business to employ women who may want a slightly more flexible approach to the working day.

Nobody in their right mind would ever declare these as reasons for not employing a female adviser, of course, except perhaps Alan Sugar, but he can afford the tribunals.

All the same, if the male owners of most adviser businesses are honest, that is the real reason why women advisers are in a minority. But where is the vision? Last year I was called by a redundant female HSBC adviser with 17 years’ experience, more qualifications than me, all the attributes I’ve listed and a spouse and three kids, as I have.

I wasn’t actually looking for anyone at the time but after meeting her, I instantly created a job. Yes, we have made some accommodations. Charlotte gets Friday afternoons off for more family time and she only does visits to corporate clients at their business premises. It’s a small price to pay and this is where us being a small firm is such an advantage.

We have the ability to be more flexible and responsive than any larger firm can ever be and, if you run a small business, so do you.

Neil Liversidge is managing director of West Riding Personal Financial Solutions

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Comments

There are 28 comments at the moment, we would love to hear your opinion too.

  1. Neil I think the obvious answer is that they have for too much common sense to want to work the stupid hours that most male advisers undertake

  2. Simon Webster 2nd May 2014 at 1:59 pm

    We have 6 RI’s in our firm, 3 are female – perhaps because I am married to one of them!

  3. Its not rocket science – although it might well be due to PC constraints.

    35 years ago when in industry I allowed all female workers to have Friday afternoon off. We also provided free hair-dos for them at Christmas. You can’t do that today – it discriminates against men and I’m amazed you can get away with allowing Charlotte Friday afternoon off and not the males in your employ.

    I would also imagine that Charlotte is now not going to have any more children, but if she were you, as her employer would soon be laughing on the other side of your face when she takes maternity leave and you have to pay for it. Large firms can afford this – the shareholders ultimately pay, but it could put a small firm out of business.

    As far as the top end of executives are concerned I suggest you read the Economist May 3rd Page 66. Even at the highest levels women get a raw deal. I’m more aware than most of the barriers for women as my wife is a director of a marketing company and has been for the last 20 years.

  4. Trevor Harrington 4th May 2014 at 6:55 pm

    The real question is – Are you looking for prejudice where none exists ?

    Personally, I do not know of one single employer who is prejudiced against Women, and I have been at the head of various businesses over the last 38 years.

    I know of lots of employers who are practical, honest and determined to take every opportunity to make their business succeed, including employing the right people for the right job.

    I have met some Women, but not many, who believe that they have been restricted from progressing their career due to their gender. They are wrong.

  5. Trevor Harrington 4th May 2014 at 11:16 pm

    The real question is – Are you looking for prejudice where none exists ?

    Personally, I do not know of one single employer who is prejudiced against Women, and I have been at the head of various businesses over the last 38 years.

    I know of lots of employers who are practical, honest and determined to take every opportunity to make their business succeed, including employing the right people for the right job.

    I have met some Women, but not many, who believe that they have been restricted from progressing their career due to their gender. They are wrong.

  6. Neil F Liversidge 5th May 2014 at 1:51 pm

    I can assure you Harry that I do employ women who are likely to have children whilst in my employment!

  7. Neil

    Amazing! You must have money to burn.

  8. Neil F Liversidge 6th May 2014 at 9:42 am

    @ Trevor Harrington – not sure I’d hang the ‘P’ word on it, as it’s over-used, but a former employer of mine who shall remain nameless (and who is now retired) declared that he would NEVER employ a woman of child bearing age. Worse still, so did his wife who was a partner in the business.

  9. Neil F Liversidge 6th May 2014 at 10:11 am

    @ Trevor again – read Harry’s comments. See what I mean?

  10. Trevor Harrington 6th May 2014 at 10:56 am

    Morning Neil,

    On the contrary my friend, read my own comment.
    I reiterate –
    “I know of lots of employers who are practical, honest and determined to take every opportunity to make their business succeed, including employing the right people for the right job”.

    As a practical example, and at the extreme, no sensible employer will employ a sixteen year old pregnant woman (?) to do bricklaying.

  11. Good grief since when is being practical and facing reality – prejudiced? How on earth can a small firm survive months and months of maternity leave – employ a stand in – who needs to be trained first – and then take back the new mother and let the stand in go?

    If your business can cope with that without substantial detriment – then well done you. In addition men can now claim paternity leave – so I believe. Anyway I don’t have the problem as all my ’employees’ are self-employed on what is termed LOSC (Labour only sub-contract) precisely to avoid these problems. I will wager that I’m not alone. It’s not prejudice or misogyny, but plain, ordinary business survival. Small firms, I would contend, just can’t carry this sort of burden.

  12. Neil F Liversidge 6th May 2014 at 1:16 pm

    @Trevor – no indeed I probably wouldn’t employ a 16 year old pregnant female to do bricklaying. At 16 there’s plenty of more experienced bricklayers out there. However my article was about employing highly experienced and qualified women in financial services who by definition are hardly likely to be 16 and pregnant, unless they studied very hard for their CII exams at school whilst simultaneously giving the boys a good time.

  13. Christopher Petrie 6th May 2014 at 1:44 pm

    “The banks developed a rigorous compliance mentality”.

    WHAT????!!!!!

    They’re still paying out billions for PPI mis-selling, Santander took their advisers off the road just last year then fired them all, many banks are under investigation as we speak and most have pulled out of financial advice completely or mostly.

    The banksters showed how NOT to give financial advice – “grand in your hand” bonuses, daily targets, twice-a-day reports to your sales manager etc.

    Most people know all this, but I’m a little concerned that Mr Liversidge seems not to, because he is/was(?) on the board at APFA…who once represented IFAs but now appear to represent Networks and even…the banks? That’s a worrying idea.

  14. Neil F Liversidge 6th May 2014 at 2:26 pm

    @ Christopher Petrie – please note the context, i.e. ‘and after a few stiff fines they even ‘ It is a fact that they were very cavalier once in their modus operandi but any bank adviser will tell you how much PPI caused them to tighten up and how that with RDR made it impossible for them to turn a profit. For those who have missed it, which seems to be most of those above, the point of the article was to highlight the availability of a lot of superb people possessed of a lot of training and experience with very good ethics. The fact that somebody worked for a bank does not make them a bad adviser.

  15. “The fact that somebody worked for a bank does not make them a bad adviser.”

    Well I guess that’s one opinion.

    The training? (or lack of) The culture? The habit?

  16. Neil F Liversidge 6th May 2014 at 4:58 pm

    Harry, I would not mind betting that Charlotte has a) more qualifications and b) less complaints to her name than you. I’ll show you mine if you’ll show me yours?

  17. Trevor Harrington 6th May 2014 at 5:37 pm

    I agree with you Harry – just because someone was previously a financial adviser (actually – a salesman) at a Bank, does not mean that they will not make good independent Financial Advisers.

    They don’t half take some re-training though …. and in some very surprising aspects of their previous routines and practices.

    As a matter of interest, I also recruited and re-trained some females of the species. Funny thing though – I noticed that females would apply in far fewer numbers than males, but those that did apply were very much more confident at interview, but then they were much less tenacious and determined once they were recruited.

    The people who I found were completely and utterly untrainable in any respect, both in financial services and in industry … were ex-school teachers.

    I never did interview a female ex-school teacher …..

  18. Neil

    You’ve lost that one. You can’t have less than nil as far as complaints are concerned and unless she’s a Chartered Accountant or an Actuary she is probably not better qualified either. Anyway qualifications are by no means the whole story. I’ll bet I have deeper and wider experience in addition to my CFP and I’ll bet I’m a darn site more commercial and have wider scope than just conventional industry solutions – not having been a lifetime member in financial services.

  19. Gordon Sinclair 6th May 2014 at 7:35 pm

    17 comments and not one from a female.

    I would suggest asking the female population why they dont want to or cant do the job.

    Then you will have your answer instead of just guessing! 🙂

  20. Steve Barrett 7th May 2014 at 9:57 am

    Neil, I imagine you are finding it hard to believe some of the short sighted, opinionated vitriol your article has prompted. I believe I know the Charlotte to whom you are referring, but will not disclose her surname based on some of the comment on here. If it is the lady I know she will remember my name as we were colleagues at HSBC – I left before all the other guys were made redundant. As you have already discovered she will be a great asset to your company.
    I would certainly concur with your comment that just because someone has worked for a bank it does not make them a bad adviser. Clearly there are others who disagree. Yes there were poor advisers in the banks, but equally I have come across IFAs who would “stitch up” their own grandmother, and I would not let them near any of my family or friends to provide “advice”. It all comes down to moral compass, some have it, and some don`t and never will.
    I have worked with quite a number of female advisers over the years who were all perfectly capable and did a good job. There does seem to be a high level of misogyny in the IFA world, if the replies on here are anything to go by – shame on you.
    Neil – please pass on my regards to Charlotte.

  21. Before too many more get on their self-congratulating, politically correct high horses, it might be as well to reflect that I probably have employed more women in my business career than any of the other people posting on this topic. And without any hubris can confidently claim that each and every one thought me to be a very good and sympathetic employer.

    That is not meant as a justification, but to point out that facing the reality of a given situation doesn’t endow one with horns and a tail. This topic is by no means confined to Financial Services and I do wonder if we are not all blowing off for the sake of it. And you started it Neil!

  22. Julian Stevens 7th May 2014 at 7:23 pm

    It’s high time you updated that photo, Neil.

  23. Neil F Liversidge 8th May 2014 at 1:40 pm

    Harry, I could never hope to find a horse as high as that from which you have a tendency to lecture. As for being PC, that is the typical jibe thrown out at anyone who takes a stance contrary to those that are rabidly right-wing and/or racist and/or misogynist. For the record my Ops Manager has a law degree to her name as well as all the relevant CII qualifications. As for the comments you and Trevor have made about former bank advisers, perhaps you might consider those in the light of how many in the IFA world typically regarded direct salesmen. If I recall correctly Harry, you were once a Hill Samuel direct salesman? In my days at Hill Samuel Life’s broker division the direct salesmen were not the most highly thought of individuals, in part with justification but also in part, it has to be sad, due to simple snobbery. Many direct salesmen have gone on to great success, some occupying the highest echelons of our profession. It is an unfortunate and unattractive facet of human nature that leads us to always look for somebody to look down on, thereby to feel the better about ourselves. I do however thank you and Trevor for proving the case I set forth. Those who look for artificial reasons not to employ perfectly competent and ethical people just reduce the competition in the marketplace for the rest of us when it comes to attracting the best staff.

  24. Neil

    Having lived in the North for 30 years I should have remembered how impossible it is to try and debate with a Yorkshireman. (That’s not a compliment).

  25. Trevor Harrington 9th May 2014 at 1:50 pm

    All I have ever said is “employ the right people for the right job”.

    If you choose to interpret that as some form of discrimination, then you would be wrong, and I can assure you that all the employers that I have met, over the last 38 years, will be adopting the precisely the same belief.

    For purely commercial reasons, plain common sense must also prevail, and therefore until medical science, or God, changes the way by which the male and female of the species reproduces, there may well be occasions when one person is employed rather than another.

  26. Well this comment section deteriorated into a tit for tat argument quickly.

    As an ex-bancassurance employee i take offence at the suggestion that i can not, by way of my employment history, ever become a good adviser.

    From my experience i agree with Neil, after a raft of scandals the banks became so afraid of their own shadows that they couldn’t provide financial advice profitably. I am not defending the banks in any way but my own experience of the bancassurance environment is that you had to jump through a number of hoops before anything was deemed compliant.

    In the end i left bancassurance because i wanted to be able to build lasting relationships with clients, something which the banks do not see any benefit in.

    Anyway, as far as the article goes. I was recently at an investment seminar in North Yorkshire and a fellow IFA congratulated me on being an IFA within the industry simply for being younger than 35. Looking around the room the vast majority of IFA’s were 45+ and male. I can count the number of female IFA’s i have come across on one hand. The situation wasn’t much better in the banks but there was a noticeably higher percentage of females working within bancassurance and those that were there were pretty good at their jobs. Could this be because the banks have better maternity benefits? Could it be because small firms can’t take the risk of employing women of child bearing age? I think it’s probably a bit of both.

    I think i’m ranting a bit now, far too much coffee on a Friday afternoon.
    All the above is my humble opinion only.

  27. Trevor Harrington 9th May 2014 at 4:13 pm

    Nick,

    I agree

    T

  28. Nick

    Can’t argue with any of that. If you think there’s a dearth of females in Financial Services you should see the situation in engineering, manufacturing production, building and Medical Consultants.

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